What You Need to Know About Ticks and Mosquitoes
How to keep insect-borne diseases from ruining your summer fun
Summer brings us outside to enjoy the warm weather with our families and friends, but it also brings out some uninvited guests. Biting insects are more than just pesky — they can transmit harmful diseases that may require a visit to the doctor, or hospitalization. Below, Dr. Brian Cilley, an infectious disease and internal medicine physician at Southcoast, gives some tips on symptoms, treatment and prevention.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that is prevalent in our region during the summer. Early symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash with redness that looks like the area was slapped with the palm of a hand, as well as sweats, fever and body aches. “And 50 percent of people never see a rash or a tick, so it is best to see a doctor if you experience flu-like symptoms after being outdoors,” Dr. Cilley adds.
People treated with the right antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover quickly and completely. “Typically, any primary care doctor in this area can treat Lyme disease,” Dr. Cilley says. “But if there is a co-infection or symptoms persist after treatment, I recommend a visit to an infectious disease doctor.”
Ticks can also carry anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Typical symptoms of anaplasmosis include fever, headache, chills and muscle aches within one to two weeks of a tick bite, as well as inflammation of the liver. Fortunately, most of the antibiotics that treat Lyme disease can treat anaplasmosis.
Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and can range from asymptomatic to causing flu-like symptoms within a few weeks or months of a tick bite. It can be treated with antibiotics.
To prevent these infections, check yourself and your kids daily for ticks if you’ve spent time outdoors. To remove ticks, use fine-tipped tweezers and pull upward on the tick with steady, even pressure. Wash the area and your hands once the tick is removed.
“If you feel you haven’t removed the whole tick, you can talk to your primary care doctor about it,” Dr. Cilley says. “Also, if a tick has been on a person’s body for more than 24 hours, a doctor can prescribe doxycycline. A single dose of this antibiotic can prevent Lyme disease if given right at the time of tick removal.”
Most mosquito bites result in itchy bumps that go away on their own, but sometimes mosquitos can transmit West Nile virus. Some people develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, and most will recover on their own.
In rare cases, people who are infected with West Nile develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system, with symptoms such as high fever, headache, neck stiffness, weakness, altered mental state or paralysis. People over the age of 60 and those with certain medical conditions are at greater risk for developing a serious illness from West Nile and should take extra precautions.
To prevent tick, mosquito and other bug bites, Dr. Cilley recommends using insect repellant that contains DEET.